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Circuit training

For most design and technology teachers, electronics isn't a specialist area and I've had to be largely self-taught. It can be difficult to keep up with new developments, because it's a subject where things change very quickly.

The right software is crucial. Part of the course was spent exploring different programs and looking at how you can use them in the classroom. Livewire, for example, allows you to test circuits on screen to see if they work. Old-fashioned clip-together kits can be a bit fiddly and don't always work. With computer simulation you can test different circuits quickly and reliably.

There were other good ideas for updating classic lessons. For example, the steady-hand game, where you have to pass a metal hoop along a wire without touching it, is always popular. But using a computer, you can set it up to play a particular tune when you make a mistake - the Star Wars imperial death march perhaps. Kids love that kind of thing and it takes their enthusiasm to another level.

Because it was a four-day course, spread over several weeks, there was plenty of time for sharing ideas. And the course tutors were approachable.

I have contacted them on several occasions when I've had a good idea for a project but haven't quite been sure how to make it work. They have always been happy to offer expert advice

Mal Weightman is a DT teacher at the Queen Katherine School in Kendal, Cumbria. He was talking to Steven Hastings.

The details

Starting Out in Electronics and Taking Electronics Further are four-day training courses run by the Electronics in Schools Strategy (EISS). The courses are available at a range of venues between now and next spring and are free of charge.

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